About 80 per cent of trade between Nigeria and other West African countries is informal, going by estimates from the West African Association for Cross-Border Trade in Agro-Forestry-Pastoral and Fisheries Products (WACTAF).
The President of the Executive Committee of the AOCTAH-WACTAF, Alasoadua Nassiru Salami, in a zoom presentation, said most of the traders preferred to sell their products informally through local markets, because of government policy on incentives.
He said informal trade had existed before colonization, but the advent of modernisation and the importance of trade to national economic development have made capturing of informal trade statistics very important.
He said: “Informal trade in export means goods of commercial value are taken outside a nation’s border unrecorded by appropriate authorities. It is currently estimated that 80 per cent of trade between member countries are informal,”
The presentation, which was delivered by the Secretary-General WACTAF Nigeria Chapter, Femi Odusanya, revealed that informal trade triumphs because of government policies such as multiple taxes along the corridor, and transit levy on ECOWAS Trade Liberalization Scheme (ETLS) goods.
Other reasons for informal trade are lack of proper means of transportation and cargo distribution system, non-harmonization of transit levy, and overloading of trucks; and non-implementation of ECOWAS protocol on free movement of goods, among others.
Salami also linked the development to insufficient technical and financial resources to achieve regional objectives through better coverage of collection points, persistent harassments and obstacles to regional trade in agricultural produce (given some figures on border-crossing times, the number of roadblocks along the corridors).
He also pointed out that states’ lack of political will for a lasting solution to the major constraints, in particular the issue of harassment, insecurity, and lack of funding and capacity building for stakeholders.
He urged government to help set up information and facilitation structure at different borders and to offer traders a grant that will allow them to get started.
He equally called for awareness-raising programmes and enlightenment throughout the six geopolitical zones of the country, to educate all the actors and operators on the importance of the fight against fraudulent smuggling of prohibited goods and insecurity.
Salami suggested that formal export procedures and documentation could be simplified through construction of loading points, weighing bridges and scanners along international corridors; public and private sector partnership in capturing data; private sector partnership in the creation and functioning of an Agricultural Regional Commodities Exchange.
Also, he said WACTAF can generate informal trade data on agricultural products and livestock through the collection centre and border posts given its strong experience in collecting data from ECOWAS agricultural products; a bill of lading data form and informal packing list, as well as a pro forma invoice in each collection centre will be introduced.
Other procedures suggested are: personalized connectivity between member states is very important; at state level, better collaboration, support with the services and administrations in connection with traders’ activities; at the level of regional economic communities and regional institutions, technical and financial support for the achievement of AOCTAH/WACTAF objectives; and better structuring of grassroots organizations and increased collaboration.